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mother Teresa

Order from the top

Mother Teresa was born in 1910 as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje in what is now Macedonia. She claimed of herself that she never had the "great way" in mind, but always only the individual suffering person. She said that you don't have a perfect concept, you just have to start.

And she did just that. At 18, she realized her childhood dream and joined the Irish Order of the "Sisters of the Loreto".

In 1929 she arrived in India and for the next few years worked as a teacher in Colombo, Madras and Calcutta. The misery on the streets was very close to her. From an early age she felt the urge not only to teach but to help. In 1937 she found her calling. God, she said, had given her a sign that she should take care of the poor.

Despite the instructions from above, it took another decade before the Pope at the time released her to work with the needy. Teresa waited patiently - from a young age her faith in the Church and in the word of the Pope was unshakable.

Missionary of Charity

Teresa did a three-month internship in a hospital and then began caring for the poor, sick and dying on the streets of Calcutta. She lived among them and more and more nuns joined her. She set up a school in the poor neighborhoods of the city.

Recognized by Pope Pius XII. and the Indian government, Mother Teresa's Order of Missionaries of Charity, founded in 1950, moved into a three-story house in Calcutta and made it its headquarters.

Teresa opened orphanages, a leprosy colony, a tuberculosis clinic and a home for single mothers. From 1965 onwards, her charitable company also expanded abroad. She was born with the entrepreneurial spirit for her mission: Her father was a successful building contractor.

PR on their own behalf

Teresa became known worldwide through numerous press reports about her extraordinary commitment. Although she did not have high ecclesiastical or political status, the powerful of this world felt honored by her visit.

But Teresa wasn't about high society, let alone power. She was very adept at waking her hosts' willingness to donate and thus collected more money for her projects: "It is fun to give, but it is also fun to take."

A life for the weak

Mother Teresa was showered with praise, recognition and prizes for her work. The Pope's Peace Prize in 1971 was followed by the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. The nun accepted it on behalf of all "the naked, hungry, crippled, blind and poor as well as all people who have been cast out".

She had the money for the planned banquet paid out and organized a Christmas party for more than 2000 poor Indians. The luxury car that the Pope gave her on his visit to India was also promptly converted into rupees.

Popular fig leaf of the Vatican

Mother Teresa's critics paint a different picture of her life. You see in her first and foremost a representative of the Vatican, who used her good reputation to spread arch-conservative Catholic ideas around the world. The allegations go so far that it is claimed that the donations do not reach the needy on Calcutta's streets, but rather the accounts of the Vatican.

Critics assume that social work also suffered from Teresa's Catholicism: the sick were not given painkillers in order to bring them closer to Jesus through their pain.

Doctors complained that sick people who were at risk of infection were not treated in isolation and that hygienic standards in the mission centers were not adhered to. "We are nuns and not nurses," Teresa countered such allegations.

Abortion and Birth Control

In addition to the numerous rumors, which are largely based on unprovable claims, it was above all the conservative attitude to socio-political issues that brought Mother Teresa into criticism. Had she been in Galileo's place at the time, Mother Teresa said in an interview, she would have given in to massive pressure from the Church.

In the Middle Ages, Galileo was urged by the Catholic Church, despite better knowledge, to renounce his knowledge that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around.

She also showed this extreme closeness to pure Catholic teaching and the recognition of its leaders in her work. Just like the Pope, she demonized abortion and did not believe in contraception. This is not an unproblematic position in a country like India, whose poverty is largely due to its rapidly growing population.

Mother Teresa replied to critics that no child has to be aborted as she takes in every child and takes care of foster care.

Record after death

In 1997 the brave nun died. In a record time of just six years after her death, the Vatican beatified her in 2003, raising her to the first step of a saint. In 2016 she was canonized by Pope Francis.

Over the decades, Mother Teresa's mission has grown into a global network of charity. Today, almost 5,000 sisters and brothers care for the needy in more than 130 countries.